An island of just 21 square kilometres, Nauru is the third smallest country in the world. It is home to around 10,000 people.

Nauru is a matrilineal society where women have a strong voice at the family and community-level, but patriarchal values are evident in policy and laws. Nauru’s Constitution affords women formal equality before the law and the National Women’s Policy 2014 guides the government’s work on gender equality.

The number of women holding public sector senior management positions rose from 17 per cent in 2013 to 25 per cent in 2016.XXVII There are two women in Nauru’s 19-member national parliament (11 per cent).

The country has faced significant economic challenges since the decline in phosphate mining, Nauru’s major export commodity. There are limited economic opportunities for both men and women. Most employment opportunities are now through the Nauru Regional Processing Centre and the public service. Labour force participation rates show a gender gap with 79 per cent men and 49 per cent women in formal employment.XXVIII Salaries tend to be equal between men and women.XXIX

An estimated 48 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetime.XXX The Child Protection and Welfare Act 2016, the Domestic Violence and Family Protection Act 2017, the establishment of a police domestic violence unit and the introduction of a safe house and 24-hour domestic violence hotline, have improved legal protection and services for survivors of violence in recent years.XXXI


Project name: Support to Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and UNICEF Pacific Child Protection Program
Outcome: Ending violence against women and Enhancing agency
Project Partner: The Pacific Community and UNICEF
Total Funding: $5,750,000 (RRRT) and $7,000,000 (UNICEF)13
Funding timeframe: 2015–2020 (RRRT) and 2014–2018 (UNICEF)

Nauru’s Domestic Violence and Family Protection Act 2017 came into force on 1 June 2017. This follows quickly after the enactment of the Child Protection and Welfare Act 2016. Through these reforms, the Government of Nauru is establishing a protective legislative framework for women and children. 

Ms Stella Duburiya, SPC RRRT Country Focal Officer facilitating community discussions on the draft Nauru Domestic Violence and Family Protection Bill. Photo: SPC/RRRT.

The drafting of the Domestic Violence and Family Protection Act 2017 was supported by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT). Nauru is the 11th Pacific country to enact family protection legislation. RRRT drew on its experiences in working with a number of those countries on the drafting process to provide assistance in Nauru.

In 2015, the Nauruan Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Charmaine Scotty, requested that RRRT draft the Domestic Violence and Family Protection Bill. RRRT hosted a senior legal drafter from the Department of Justice and Nauru’s Chief Financial Officer at its Suva office to work on the Bill. Extensive consultations were part of the process including with duty bearers and communities before the Bill was passed by Parliament in December 2016. A Family Protection and Coordination Committee will monitor progress under the legislation. Development of an implementation plan and training for service providers are underway.

This built on UNICEF’s work with the Government of Nauru to pass the Child Protection and Welfare Act 2016 a year earlier, also supported by Pacific Women. That Act was passed prior to Nauru submitting its first report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in October 2016. Nauru is one of just four Pacific countries that have taken steps to enact national child protection laws in support of its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Continuing its support for implementation, UNICEF conducted a three-day orientation on the Act for 16 government personnel in April 2017. Staff from the Child Protection Division, Women’s Affairs, Safe House, Youth Affairs, Police Domestic Violence Unit, Education and Health learned about the contents of the Act, case management and undertook a mapping exercise of existing services and referral mechanisms.

Political will and community support to address child protection and domestic violence is significant. Minister Scotty has commended the legislation as a ‘milestone in ensuring that our laws not only protect and safeguard us, but also educates and trains us all as a nation to become better parents, partners, and most of all, to become better individuals.’

13This activity is part of a larger program.

Project name: Pacific Community Health and Wellbeing
Education Outcome: Ending violence against women
Project Partner: The University of New England
Total Funding: $553,000
Funding timeframe: 2015–2017

Local counselling and social work capacity in Nauru is being enhanced through the Pacific Community Health and Wellbeing Education project. Five women and one man undertaking a Diploma in Community Health and Wellbeing say the course is ‘vital’ and ‘supportive’ in the way they work with their clients.

With only 10,000 people, speaking out about violence can be extremely challenging due to the lack of anonymity. The diploma course has been designed in response to these recurring issues of violence against women and gender inequality issues. The University of New England worked with local stakeholders to develop a Pacific-focused diploma program to build skills and strengthen services in counselling.

Mr Horasio Cook, Mrs Anastasia Eobob, Mrs Lucinta Seymour and Mrs Cynthia Dekarube are four government employees who completed the diploma. In their work, they deal with families, children and young people on issues including child protection and family health. They reflect on what they learned during the course:

‘We have learned great new things. For example, we see communicating with clients and work colleagues and families through a different lens. It opened up a completely new level or dimension of understanding and patience.’

A sample of the units of study include professional communication practice, children and young people at risk, managing clients with complex needs, health promotion in practice, Pacific recovery: issues around family violence and Pacific child and adolescent counselling.

‘After taking the course, we approach things differently’, the graduates say. ‘More reasonable and more thoughtful towards other people and to other different race, cultural ways, we get to know why they react to such. But it has taught us to be mindful and understanding on their needs and issues.’

‘Yes it has changed a lot of things in our lives, mostly our norms have shifted and we are making changes, which helps our day-to-day lives and especially at work. We also learned during the course on leadership and this course really helped us in our decision making at work and home.’ 

The course is delivered through a combination of intensive face-to-face on-island academic support and online classes. This means that students can stay in Nauru and continue to perform their jobs, while they complete the diploma.

Community Health and Wellbeing Diploma graduates Mrs Anastasia Eobob (right), Mrs Lucinta Seymour (second from right) and Mrs Cynthia Dekarube (left) having a discussion with DFAT Program Manager, Ms Veronica Halstead (second from left) about enhancing local counselling and social work capacity in Nauru. Photo: DFAT.